In a compassionate, if slightly clumsy, appeal about the urgent need for power resources in Africa, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said this Thursday at an energy summit sponsored by Axios and NBC News:
I just got back from Africa…I think I heard a lady say that there are people dying. Let me tell you where people are dying…in Africa because of the lack of energy that they have there. And it’s gonna take fossil fuels to push power out to those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face ‘One of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I won’t have to try to read by the light of a fire, and have those fumes literally killing people, but also from the standpoint of sexual assault.’ When the lights are on, when you have light, it shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role.
Perry delivered his remarks in an emotional tone, and it was clear that he was moved by his trip to Africa and hearing this young girl talk about her desire for something we Americans take for granted every single minute. It is also just common sense to suggest the light generated via electricity is desperately needed throughout this dark continent for a number of humanitarian purposes, including keeping vulnerable populations such as young girls safe at night.
But this logic was of course completely lost on the blue-checkmark Twitter crowd. Reporters and liberal activists quickly twisted Perry’s words into this: Perry Says Fossil Fuels Prevent Sexual Assault. Anyone can read his comments over and over and not be able to truthfully make that connection.
Cue Inscrutable Media Rage Over Protecting Women
Women who would never in a gazillion years allow their daughters to walk any dark street or neighborhood, let alone do it themselves, were shrieking about Perry’s comments, which suggests they did not bother to read the full transcript of his remarks. The New Republic reporter Emily Atkin unleashed a nine-part tweetstorm, accusing Perry of using sexual assault victims to promote Trump’s fossil fuel agenda.
She erroneously claimed “Perry said that, in places like Africa, lack of electricity promotes sexual assault.” (He said no such thing). While she acknowledged “electricity helps protect people from bad sh-t happening in the dark,” she said they should get their electricity from renewables, not fossil fuels.
Now, never mind that Atkin lives in Washington DC, a city powered almost exclusively by natural gas. Or that it is economically and logistically impossible to scale up enough renewable energy from solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity for the 530 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who need it. Or that she is the one who is exploiting a tragic and dire situation in Africa to push her own political agenda.
Atkin wasn’t alone in her disingenuous condemnation. Mother Jones mocked Perry for his “genius solution” to prevent sexual assault, and MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin repeated the storyline. But the topper (so far) goes to The Daily Beast with the headline, “Rick Perry Says the Best Way to Prevent Rape Is Oil, Glorious Oil.”
Writer Erin Gloria Ryan actually makes the case that fossil fuels cause sexual violence: “The mining of fossil fuels is often associated with increased sex crimes and prostitution in the areas where the mining occurs. Writing for Vice in October 2013, Peter Rugh described the way ‘man camps’ that housed fracking workforces also fostered a rise in sex crimes so serious that it got the attention of the Department of Justice. There was also a sharp uptick in cases of sexually transmitted diseases in these areas.” Future Daily Beast headline: “Fracking Causes Gonorrhea.”
Yes, Seriously, They’re Saying Perry Should Resign
The Sierra Club started a petition demanding Perry “resign for [his] twisted remarks,” claiming the secretary made “heinous comments suggesting that expanding fossil fuel development will decrease incidents of sexual assault.”
The environmental group, long opposed to both fossil fuels and nuclear energy, then exploited the situation themselves: “Women, and particularly women of color, are among some of the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at risk of sexual assault.” So it’s not heinous to posit that climate change causes sexual assault, but it’s heinous to say electricity can stop it?
Perry’s remarks are not heinous, or novel, or even political. Tim Carney, a columnist with the Washington Examiner, reported that a 2013 United Nations paper reached a similar conclusion about how “’better lighting’ can help prevent sexual violence in India,” and an Oxfam study said “access to modern fuels is expected to help prevent the cuts, falls, bites, and episodes of sexual harassment and assault that women and girls might otherwise sustain while collecting fuelwood.”
In their rush to smear a Trump cabinet member, the media not only once again exposed their zeal to mislead readers but their breathtaking hypocrisy and shameful lack of compassion for what is indeed a very real problem in the developing world. So much for their humanity.